Riverside meanders

 The common thread today was the floodplain of the Murray River, where the red gums towered majestically in unusual shapes, depending on the way the floodwaters had shaped them. Sunlight filtered and gleamed on the trunks.  
The township of Tocumwal had been bypassed by passenger trains but the Lions members served us a classic morning tea in the station staff room. Meanwhile, a modern diesel locomotive engine stood ready to cart containers across the river and down to Port Melbourne.   
Rainbow bee eaters fluttered high in the red gums, catching insects. Three paused briefly on a branch and I managed to zoom in on their vivid colours.

 

From a bird hide on Quinn Island, we observed a friar bird attending to its nest, suspended in the shape of a Viking ship and tastefully decorated with blue twine.

  
Further upstream, we came upon a narrow bridge with a three-tonne load limit. David assured me that the Prado weighs only two tonnes, so we were all right. We carefully eased the 4WD over the wobbly planks to the other side.

   
It was the first day of the fishing season and fishers in little tinnies were trying their luck for Murray cod.

 

Kookaburras kept an eye out for edible movement. A platypus wriggled its flat tail in the snags near the riverbank, but I wasn’t quick enough to capture them on record. All about was spring activity.

Foodies’ delight on Cobram Farm Gate Trail

A farm gate visit to three properties near Cobram provided some tasty Christmas presents. First stop was Cobrawonga Estate and Nursery, where we sampled Luke’s native plum jam and wild bush dukkah and toured a dry country garden with a creek running down the centre.

   
 
The owner’s wife had rag-doll cats, which were cute and laid back.

  
Next stop was Byramine Homestead, one of the oldest homesteads in Victoria, built by Elizabeth Hume (sister-in-law of the celebrated explorer) in about 1840.

  
They served a delicious lunch.

  
Then it was on to Rich Glen Olives, which gave us an insight into the diversity of products which can be made with olive oil, including beauty products. Being with Red Hill Probus, we admired the painting of Red Hill that hung behind the counter.

  
They also stocked other local produce including a delicious soft Boosey Creek cheese. What better way to finish the day than a Monday night two-for-one deal for Diamond Club members at The Top Pub, founded 1897.

  

Turtle and Koala by Murray River at Cobram

  
A short-necked turtle ignored us as we tootled by, heading upstream on the paddle boat Cobba.

Riverboats don’t need a wooden helm these days. The skipper of the Cobba uses a remote control. A diesel engine drives a generator that powers each paddle wheel separately, so each paddle can be controlled independently, at different speeds or direction.

   

The Cobba paddle boat moored at beach on River Murray, Cobram. The Murray is Australia’s longest river system, defining some of the boundary between the states of Victoria and New South Wales and finally emptying into Bass Strait in South Australia.
 
A pleasant cruise from Cobram up the Murray River took us under a historic drawbridge, past houseboats, then alongside an island sanctuary where koalas looked down at us from red gums above century old post-and-rail fences.

   
Disused drawbridge on River Murray, built in the days of paddle steamers and sailing boats.

 
Koala in red gum on Quinn Island, now a sanctuary.

   
Houseboats moored at the anabranch at the end of Quinn Island.

 
Post-and-rail fence from early twentieth Century stands above eroded bank of Murray River on Quinn Island.

Signing off at the end of a long day

The Great Ocean Rode is another great road journey and on a fine morning offers the beauty of limestone stacks, jewelled ocean and foaming waves.
   
 

London Bridge (above) may no longer be connected to the mainland but is a handsome view.

Further along, Melba Gully is a shady rainforest of towering beeches where tree ferns flaunt their feathery skirts and brilliant orange bracket fungus winks from below tree trunks. Such contrast of light and dark is fiendishly difficult to capture on camera.

   
 

As we leave Queenscliff, we bid adieu to the boats in the marina and sail into the sunset until the next trip.

   
 

Homeward bound

  
Last February while in Mount Gambier we enjoyed coffee and delicious cakes at Cafe Metro. We also stocked up on comfortable clothes at reasonable price at the Rivers outlet.

So we left Robe this morning and decided to revisit Mount Gambier and both these businesses. We weren’t disappointed. After coffee and yummy Sicilian cartocci (cannoli filled with orange flavoured custard) at Metro, we did a lightning shop at Rivers and are fitted out for the end of winter.

By lunchtime we crossed the state border and stopped at Bird Bath roadside rest area, Dartmoor, which has a natural spring. It was a long-settled area with streets lined with wild daffodils and an old rail line.

  
We are overnighting at the coastal town of Warrnambool, where we have enjoyed a delicious dinner at Old Clovelly restaurant and a sound and light reenactment of the shipwreck of the sailing ship Loch Ard. Cameras were banned from the Shipwreck show, but here’s the fish with risotto and rocket salad. David had chicken with rice cauliflower and bok choy.

  

Winter beach combing near Robe

  
South of Robe is an ocean beach with wild waves.

  

 As the waves crash and spray on the rocky outcrops, the receding tide throws up treasures from the ocean: kelp, plastic trash broken and distorted, bottles encrusted with cockles, feathers, driftwood.

  
  
As we basked in the noontime glare, we noticed some translucent opaline shapes that may be shark eggs?

  
Behind the dunes is a freshwater lake where hoary-headed grebes, black swans and musk ducks feast on the underwater grasses.

  
  
It’s a soothing contrast to the charged energy of the ocean waves.

Coorong walk after rain

  
The Coorong is a system of lakes behind the dunes in the southeast of South Australia. It includes samphire swampland and melaleuca. This morning, we pulled into the Coorong National Park at Chinamen’s Well, which we had visited six weeks ago coming over from Victoria. Suddenly the rain stopped and we leapt outside to tackle a nearby walk: the Nakun Kangun, which runs for 27km along the Coorong.

  
Some of the walk was through melaleuca forest (see above), past samphire lakes.

  
There were delicate orchids if you looked carefully.

  
Correa:

  

We continued to Kingston SE, which has a cool historic lighthouse.

  
Finally, we are in Robe, where we have caught up with family in the first house we have been in for nearly seven weeks.